Financial boost for Newport Canal Recovery Programme
A partnership between Telford & Wrekin Council, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England has secured funding for vital habitat conservation work along the Newport Canal Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
A Water Environment Grant of more than £98,000 from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and Defra, will be used for a two-year programme.
Newport in the borough of Telford & Wrekin is one of the places where large sections of the canal remain in water as they were 50 years ago. The impressive heritage landmark is an important habitat for some of the UK’s rarest aquatic plant species and was designated a SSSI in 1986.
The ultimate aim will be restoring the site’s ecological condition and work will involve public consultation, ecological surveys, conservation dredging, water quality protection and access improvements.
Siltation (the natural build-up of a fine deposit of soil particles and plant matter on the canal bed) over the last 30 years has resulted in a lower water depth and poorer conditions resulting in a decline in the variety of rare and deep water plants and aquatic creatures.
Telford & Wrekin Council officers along with Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England have been working to raise much-needed funds to restore the canal’s original conditions to encourage the return of rare plants and wildlife, so plentiful in the past.
Councillor John Minor, Cabinet member for leisure, green spaces and parks said: “This is great news for canal wildlife and Newport residents alike.
“This initiative is focused on restoring and improving habitats - making sites better for wildlife and consequently more diverse and enjoyable for the communities that value them.
“Since 2016 Telford & Wrekin Council has worked to enhance and join up the green spaces in the borough and identified 200 Green Guarantee sites. It has also begun the declaration of eight Local Nature Reserve (LNR), making the coverage of protected sites across the borough bigger than ever before.
“It’s also just one very strong example of how the council works in partnership to ensure communities get the most benefit from projects such as this.”
Pete Lambert, river projects manager, Shropshire Wildlife Trust said: “Some 80 per cent of the UK’s SSSI canals are in poor or unfavourable condition, the rare aquatic plants that colonised the canal network after the closures are now lost again.
“It gives me great personal pleasure to hear we have made a successful bid to restore the rare water plant life to at least one of these remarkable man-made waterways.’
Vicki Howden, lead advisor freshwater ecology for Natural England said: “Natural England is really delighted to support this exciting project that will see the Newport Canal restored to a diverse and healthy SSSI that sits right in the heart of the community.
“Protected sites represent the best examples of our natural environment and returned to its former glory this outstanding site will be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Mayor of Newport, Councillor Peter Scott said: “We have been long standing supporters of the canal trust and welcome this investment.
“This grant will mean a great step forward in bringing wildlife right back right into the heart of our community and enhancing the natural environment with diverse plant and animal life.
“The canal is already a special part of Newport’s identity and this scheme will only enrich our town. I am excited to see this project move forward and happy to get my hands dirty and lend a hand.”
The programme will start in early May with a series of public consultations to help tailor planning for the recovery programme.
For further information on the Newport Canal SSSI Recovery Programme contact Pete Lambert, river projects manager, Shropshire Wildlife Trust by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured: L to r: Mayor of Newport, Councillor Peter Scott with Deputy Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Councillor Richard Overton and Pete Lambert, river projects manager, Shropshire Wildlife Trust.